Policy Documents

Rationing - How Not to Reform Health Care

Trevor Martin –
March 20, 2008

Most Americans want health care reform, but mandating health insurance or legislating a government-run single-payer system will not solve anything. Health care needs less government intervention, not more. Policymakers should instead embrace free-market ideas, allowing the industry to drive innovation and competition, thus alleviating one of the most pressing concerns: ever-rising prices.

For examples of why government-run insurance is the wrong direction for health care reform in the U.S. to take, we need only look to Britain. A panel of UK doctors suggested Great Britain’s nationalized health care system (the National Health Service, or NHS) ration care in order to save money. NHS recently discussed the possibility of denying care to citizens with ailments that fall under certain high-risk or chronic categories. Such a proposal entirely contradicts proponents’ claims that nationalizing health care makes it available to everyone. In reality, a large sector of the population might have no options at all for care.

The following commentary and articles provide background and will keep you informed as news regarding Britain’s NHS and the larger ongoing debate about “universal health care” unfolds. Additionally, you can review “talking points” on universal health care prepared by The Heartland Institute by clicking here


Don't Treat the Unhealthy
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2008/01/27/nhs127.xml
A news article describing the recommendation that NHS cease care for certain types of illnesses.

Ouch! British Dental Care the Most Expensive in Europe
http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-wellbeing/health-news/ouch-british-dental-care-the-most-expensive-in-europe-769227.html
Unlike in a free-market system, which can shift and react to consumer demand, too much government intervention leads to rationing, denial of care, and loss of medical professionals -- not to mention skyrocketing costs to taxpayers.

Paying Patients Test British Health Care System
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/21/world/europe/21britain.html?pagewanted=1&ei=5087&em&en=cc64c4ce00c210b7&ex=1203742800
Sooner or later, nationalized health care means whatever the government does not provide is against the law.

A&E Patients Left in Ambulances for up to Five Hours so Trusts Can Meet Government Targets
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/news/news.html?in_article_id=515332&in_page_id=1770
Another reason not to let government interfere: targets and quotas.

How Government Rations Health Care
http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=453
This article from the November 2001 issue of Health Care News explains how government intervention leads to rationing in Britain.

Mass. Mandate May Cost Twice Early Estimate
http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=20745
This article from the April 2007 issue of Health Care News describes the “sticker shock” Massachusetts residents felt when insurers in the state-run Commonwealth Health Insurance Connector projected their premiums would run as high as $380 per month--nearly double the earlier estimate.

Universal Health Care Law Is Ineffective in Maine, Study Finds
http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=22302
Maine’s uninsured rate did not improve significantly between 2003 and 2006 despite a universal health care initiative passed in 2003.

Health Care in a Free Society: Rebutting the Myths of National Health Insurance
http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=16641
A Cato Institute Policy Analysis by John C. Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis, who notes nearly everyone agrees that the U.S. health care system needs serious reform ... but differing opinions exist concerning what kind of reform would best serve Americans.

Why the United States Should Reject Socialized Medicine and Restore Private Medicine
http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=14013
In August 2003, Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) announced with great fanfare some 8,000 physicians and medical students endorsed a Proposal by the Physicians’ Working Group for Single-Payer National Health Insurance. In this article, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons offers a different perspective.